Monday, 4 January 2016

Post Christmas Reviewapalooza: Quick Crappy Review - WWE Elite Doink & WWE Battle Pack Scott Hall & Kevin Nash*

What better way to start anything than with a psychotic clown in a skintight leotard?
Every year my mum takes me out, usually to Colchester, to let me make her life easier and my Christmas Morning better and let me choose some presents (she does this for my birthday too); we’re actually pretty good at shopping when working together and it’s a nice way for an adult man and his mum to bond without either of us looking weird or sad, plus I get cool shit. One of the fruits of this year was WWE Battle Pack of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in their nWo gear, Doink I bought in the Post-Christmas sales on clearance.

Pointless information (and introductory paragraph) out of the way, we’re back in the world of Mattel’s quagmire of WWE retail lines, Doink the Clown was released as part of Series 34 of WWE Elite (formally the top-end line for the franchise but now the mid-price line thanks to the uber-deluxe Defining Moments series, I think) and Hall and Nash are from their 36th wave of WWE Battle Packs, which are just two-packs of their most basic figures (the ones released under simply ‘WWE’), it really is the most unnecessarily confusing web of sub-lines.   

Let’s start with Doink, Doink’s one of the WWF’s more notorious cartoon characters and was played by several people but is most closely associated with Matt Osborne, who played the character from its debut in 1992 until he was fired from the WWF in September 1993, during Osborne’s tenure in the tights Doink was a creepy heel (villain) and was quite popular. However just before he was fired the clown turned face (good guy) and was then played by various wrestlers as fans grew less and less enamoured with him and began to chant ‘kill the clown, kill the clown’ until the character was retired. Despite being a very divisive character on eBay he is currently one of the priciest WWE Elite figures from the last 10 waves because nothing makes sense and of all of the things that don’t make sense wrestling fans make the least sense of all, so I was bloody pleased to find him on clearance for £14.99. I think Doink’s great, he looks great, he’s a great concept and for a least a year or so he turned in decent matches, I will admit though that as a child he was one of the WWF figures I just assumed wasn’t a real wrestler and was a made-up character Hasbro has inserted into the line (because surely there couldn’t be a real wrestling clown, or Mountie, or Viking). Before you brand me as stupid I’d like to remind you that I grew up with the likes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Kenner’s Aliens, Predator and Batman lines and they were doing that shit all the time.

Objectively and from an ‘adult collector’ perspective Doink is quite easily the best WWE figure I own and one of the best to come from the Elite line in a good while; he’s articulated out the ass, his paint-apps are sharp and complex, his likeness is fantastic, he comes with a logical weapon and a some swappable parts that only the ‘real fans’ would see as anything other than superfluous, in short he’s the closest the WWE Elite line comes to a ‘Adult Collector’s Figure’. But he also has a lot of design elements that shows up a lot of problems with putting articulation (and to a lesser extent part reuse) above aesthetics and why sometimes less articulation, or smart articulation, is better. Frankly any attempt to pose Doink is likely to ruin the look of his leotard, and by ‘ruin’ I mean ‘make it do something that it could not do in real life’ – the thigh and bicep swivels will cut the stars into two and the ab crunch will make part of the tie/shirt disappear, that doesn’t happen when a person turns or scrunches up, it’s easily avoidable – simply cut the bicep swivel, replace the ab crunch’s hinge with a ball joint and the thigh cut with ball jointed legs. Of course to complain about this is to complain about the construction of the basic WWE Elite buck and not Doink himself, it’s just Doink’s outfit shows up the buck’s limitations and effects my overall opinion of his figure. The buck’s sculpt remains lovely and they’ve chosen to use the ‘clothed parts’ to avoid making him look like a shitty superhero figure and keeping the muscle definition low and at leotard level, always appreciated. I honestly don’t think the knees and thighs replicate the leotard all that well and they should have opted for parts with the material pulled tighter but to balance things out the forearms really look like he’s wearing a suit, I think this is may be a happy accident and a result of the piece not lining up with the wrist as smoothly as it should but it works for Doink and if that’s the case I’ll complain about it somewhere else. I wish they’d given him a new sculpted upper torso and not just painted his leotard (and chest hairs, yick) on but I do understand that that’s an expensive piece to tool, though as Doink’s only new pieces are his head and hair pieces…

Speaking of those, accessories – Doink’s actually pretty kitted out in that department, firstly he comes with his trademark bucket - which actually looks like the type of bucket he used to carry - it is sadly empty and I do feel that for an ‘Elite’ figure they could and should have sprung for a c-thru water piece for it but it’s exactly what he should have been packaged with and if he didn’t have I and all Doink fans everywhere would have been sad, and clowns shouldn’t make you sad. He also comes with three – count ‘em, three – swappable hair pieces; given that so far every figure I’ve bought from this line has had exactly zero swappable pieces (unless you want to count the Road Warriors’ armour and Mattel clearly does, but I bloody well do not) it really did feel like Christmas when I unboxed the clown. I don’t pretend to know enough about Doink (or wrestling in general) to be able to tell you what or when each hair represents and I just use the one that looks the most like the Hasbro figure’s rooted hair (the middle one in my picture above) but I know the hardcore WWFers out there will be able to and were no doubt delighted at their inclusion. They’re also really simple and easy to swap out, so easy that I bothered to take the aforementioned comparison picture just because it was such a joy to change them (I’m very odd ok?). They just plug at the base of his skull but the plug is just firm enough and the hole just the right size that they slip in and out easy, stay firmly and the sculpt makes it clear enough which way up they go that even a Doink luddite like me could work it out at first sight.

Onto Hall & Nash then, and therein lies a bit of a story. Scott Hall and Kevin Nash made their names at the WWF wrestling as the characters Razor Ramon and Diesel, Ramon was a popular mid-carder1 while Diesel, originally Shawn Michaels' bodyguard, had been the worst drawing champion in WWF history after Vince McMahon shoved him down fans throats in an attempt to recreate Hulk Hogan even after he’d failed twice with the Ultimate Warrior and Lex Luger (and Diesel was a similarly limited in-ring worker). By 1996 both were fed up in the WWF, they were stuck in the mid-card in a company that was in financial trouble and unable to keep up with their competition WCW, Hall was lured away to said company by their would-be-Svengali Eric Bischoff for a very large sum of money, delighted, he then got his good mate2 Kevin Nash a similarly ginormous contract. Though their leaving was marked by the infamous Curtain Call3, the Curtain Call wasn’t broadcast and as this was 1996 very few people knew they’d left. Then Scott Hall appears on WCW’s Monday Nitro programme (which was the time shown head-to-head with the WWF’s equivalent Monday Night Raw) unnamed but very similar in appearance and mannerisms to that of his Razor Ramon character threatening the whole company as part of a brilliantly staged invasion storyline, after a couple more run-ins Kevin Nash starts showing up too and the two become known as the Outsiders, then after kicking Lex Luger, my man Sting and Macho Man Randy Savage all over the square circle Hulk fucking Hogan joins up with them, turns heel for the first time since Hulkamania began and the New World Order (or nWo) stable (team) was born, they ran around, beat people up, spray painted shit and gradually got more bloated as they began to draw more and more money (Toy Biz even had a separate figure line just for them). They fucked it up in the end (as WCW did with lots of things) but then, when it was just Hall, Nah and Hogan it very cool and very well done, they even had some decent matches (that didn’t last too long).  

To me, nWo Hall and Nash, in their t-shirts and jeans, are THE Hall and Nash –I’m pretty sure this puts me in a group of about 3 – it’s also kind of illogical as this wasn’t the outfits they used for the initial Outsiders invasion (they obviously didn’t have it until after they’d become the nWo) but when I think of the two wrestlers, this is how I picture them. But what are the actual figures like? Well they ain’t nimble but they are pretty decent representations of the two men. These are the WWE buck in its most basic form – no ab-crunch and only three joints per limb – in theory articulation shouldn’t matter too much because these aren’t ‘in-ring’ figures so they shouldn’t have to do much other than stand there and cut promos and/or sight their creative control clause (or drink whisky in Hall’s case) but it bothers me for Scott Hall because he can’t stand with his legs open and, well, he used to stand with legs open a lot, not being able to have Hall, legs apart, groin forward, shoulders back and giving it4 is the big let-down for this set, well that and the accessories.  I couldn’t give a shit when it comes to Nash, he was about as agile a reversing lorry and it doesn’t take a lot of articulation to bear hug or power slam. My other negative for the actual figures I knew existed going into things – painted on t-shirt sleeves, I generally dislike it when they paint things that should have a sculpted detail but t-shirt sleeves bug me more than most and what really bugs me if that Mattel clearly has a T-shirt torso both with an without an ab-crunch and it’s excellent so why don’t they have a few sets of t-shirt biceps to go with it? A lot of wrestlers wear t-shirts, why don’t you have t-shirt biceps you cheap bastards?

To the positive - we’ve already established that I think the torso sculpts are good and that I’m the sort of person who cares about how a toy company sculpts t-shirts but those nWo logos are nice and bold and crisp too, and most importantly the head sculpts are both as good. This is the deal breaker for me, I’m not buying the new Wrestlemania Undertaker despite it being my favourite look for my favourite wrestler because the head sculpt it utter dogshit and if I won’t put up with a sub-part headsculpt on ‘Taker I won’t put up with it on anything. These are not dogshit, they’re not Hot Topic (or Rick Flair) level yes but they’re bloody good; Nash is the weaker of the two (like wrestler like headsculpt5), a little of what us toy knobs call ‘soft’ I believe, but it’s only weak compared to Scott Hall’s, which is fucking excellent. I’m looking at the Defining Moments Razor Ramon and figuring it’s the same one used there (why wouldn’t it be?) and yes Hall was a living cartoon character and that does make things easier than if you’re sculpting, say, William Shatner or Mark Hammil (or Kevin Nash it seems), but a cartoon character can still be off-model, as every ice-cream truck in my country will prove. Hall’s head is a little limited by his hair but Nash’s is surprisingly not so bad, his hair is nice and soft and other than obviously limited how far he can tilt his head to right it’s unobtrusive. Also nice is that they took time to make Nash noticeably tall, this is done by – I believe – using longer lower leg pieces, also the feet are on a swivel/hinge combo joint and though I initially thought this would be pointless I actually found it very useful both for posing and balancing so that was pleasant.

Back to negatives – the accessories: these two actually come with some too, four all-together, two spray cans and two pairs of sunglasses. The spray cans are fine except Nash’s hand is too open and cannot hold one; I’m not sure what’s at fault there – the Nash figure or the spray can accessory but whichever it is it still means he drops it all the time. The sunglasses are shit, they fall off all the time and Nash’s haven’t been modified to work with his hair so even when they’re on they’re on wonky, all but Hall’s spray can are off to the weapons box to never be seen from again, kept only on the off-chance I want to sell them (and the other spray can’s going that way as soon as I can find a tiny microphone, or glass of whiskey).

In conclusion: flawed but acceptable all round, all three are brought down by the limitations of their bucks but all three use good likenesses and good paint to rise above those limitations and make themselves keepers. And again, who doesn’t want a killer clown in a leotard in their figure collection?  

This beat down brought to you in loving memory of Dink.
1 The best way I’ve come up with to describe the position of ‘mid-carder’ is the bands that are usually third or fourth on the bill at a festival, they’re popular enough to have their own fanbase who come just to see them and could easily headline their own tours but they’re not quite of the same headlining status as the final two bands. 
2Hall and Nash were part of an infamous backstage alliance of friends called The Kliq which include themselves, Shawn Michaels, Triple H and the wrestler Sean Waltman who was then wrestling as the 1-2-3 Kid but is probably best remembered (and hated) as X-Pac.  
3 when Razor Ramon and Triple H came out after a Shawn Michaels vs Diesel match and broke Kayfabe (character) to hug and say goodbye to each other. It infuriated a lot of WWF employees and resulted in Triple H (the only one who could be punished for it at the time) having his planned win at that years’ King of the Ring taken away from him – the replacement winner? Stone Cold Steve Austin.
4 I’m trying to think of the best way to translate ‘giving it’ into American-friendly language, it’s kind of a mix of aggressive and cocky.
5 I promise to stop making jabs at Kevin Nash – right after I take a shot at him for being a terrible booker at WCW and booking himself to end Goldberg’s winning streak, the prick. 

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